Wednesday, October 26, 2011
In the Boston Review, Leland de la Durantaye reviews Jeffrey Eugenides's The Marriage Plot.
Returning to the semiotic discussion of suicide, Thurston expresses an ageless uncertainty about the relation of literature to life, but he does so in a manner employing all the signs of his times. As did their maker, Thurston, Madeleine, and the other principal characters in the novel are attending Brown at the high-water mark of semiological interest, the years of greatest deconstructive activity, of the most passionate post-structural analysis (of passion). Eugenides includes a great deal of realistic detail in painting this scene—right down to reading lists, in which there is a surprising error: Heidegger’s great work was Being and Time, not Being and Nothingness, which was Sartre’s recasting of it. Thurston is thus both expressing the idiosyncratic opinions of a singular character and presenting a potential misreading typical of its time, an attention to signifiers that risks losing sight of the signified. Down the road in New Haven during the very years the novel’s events chronicle, the brilliant post-Heideggerian critic Paul de Man wrote, “Death is a displaced name for a linguistic predicament.” The predicament of Thurston, Madeleine, and their semiological classmates is whether this is so, whether language and literature integrally condition not just some but all our experiences.
I think it's OK in fiction to have an alternate world where MH wrote B&N; in context, it might be an ironic insight, or not.
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